Gottlieb's feeds keep Cowboys craving more

Senior guard's assists help Okla. State stay in hunt

Ncaa Men's Tournament

March 26, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Five years after experiencing the harsh reality of the national spotlight, Doug Gottlieb is basking in its glow.

Oklahoma State's crafty point guard will be on center stage in the East Regional final today as the Cowboys attempt to lasso the pressure defense Florida used to eliminate top-seeded Duke on Friday night.

He has come full circle since the dark days when he was a freshman at Notre Dame, a Jewish kid from Southern California at the nation's most storied Catholic university.

A starter after four games, Gottlieb never made it past that season after pleading guilty to credit card theft and being placed on a year's probation. That marked the end of his career at Notre Dame.

"I don't like questions about Notre Dame," said the loquacious senior who sat out a year at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Calif., before landing at Oklahoma State via a family connection (his father, Bob, was assistant to his current coach, Eddie Sutton, at Creighton).

"That was a long time ago, and this is my second life in basketball. It's something I was ashamed of. But you shouldn't be judged by your faults, but how you react to your faults."

Gottlieb found peace, happiness and basketball utopia in Stillwater, Okla., under the veteran Sutton. His 8.6 assists a game during the regular season ranked second in the nation. He is now the eighth-leading assist man in NCAA history after 12 feeds Friday in the Cowboys' 68-66 win over Seton Hall.

Today, the self-professed basketball junkie has an opportunity to lead Oklahoma State into its first Final Four since 1995 when Bryant "Big Country" Reeves spurred the team to Seattle.

To do so, Gottlieb, 24, will have to draw upon all his wiles to beat the traps and constant harassment the Gators impose on the opposing point guard. Duke freshman Jason Williams had his problems with the heat, but Gottlieb is a seasoned leader on a team with six seniors who play significant minutes.

"If they [Florida] get you in a pingpong game, up and down, up and down, you're going to lose," Sutton said. "You must attack a press and make them pay the price for spreading the defense 94 feet. Not necessarily score every time, but you can never get it in your heads that you are content to get the ball across the midcourt line. Once a team senses that, they just turn up the juice on you."

Enter the 6-foot-1 Gottlieb, a heady leader with excellent vision, sound court sense and an altruistic attitude that borders on too unselfish. Teams dare this Cowboy to shoot.

"I think that plays into our hands a little bit," said Oklahoma State standout Desmond Mason. "They back off him and give him the ability to see more of the court and find who's open."

Gottlieb has a long background in basketball. His father was the head coach at Jacksonville for two seasons and at Wisconsin-Milwaukee for five. His mother, Jane, graduated from Syracuse and once dated Orangeman basketball player George Hicker.

He spent yesterday expounding on various hoop subjects, including the possibility he will continue playing after he earns a degree in business from Oklahoma State. "I'm a team guy. I have no problem sitting on someone's bench collecting paychecks," he said in reference about his professional future.

If that doesn't pan out, Gottlieb could easily adapt to coaching or to television play-by-play or commentary with his abiding love and comprehension of the game.

With the Big 12 one of two conferences with at least two schools left in the field, he took it upon himself to defend the quality of play in what is a largely unnoticed hotbed, the Southwest.

"Nobody talks about Tulsa, and they've won 32 games," he said. "Iowa State is an incredibly talented team, and we found that out when we went to Ames and got taken to the woodshed. There are a lot of good teams in that part of the country, and I think some people are starting to take notice."

Gottlieb said he wishes to be remembered as a "great Oklahoma State point guard, not a Notre Dame whatever" when the inevitable day arrives and there are no more college games. "To get to the Elite Eight has been an unbelievable high."

He has attended 11 Final Fours, including in 1987 when Indiana's Steve Alford made an impression on him. "Watching Steve Alford was a great experience for any white kid who played basketball," he said.

If the Cowboys fend off Florida, many 12-year-olds are likely to get that same impression from Doug Gottlieb.

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